It’s Armistice Day

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Trump Maladministration

Click here for the Mahablog Armistice Day archives.

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Roy Unmoored?

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Trump Maladministration

Judge Roy Moore is being accused of inappropriate relations with a minor. I’m not surprised in the least. However, the interesting development here is that Mitch McConnell and a bunch of other Republicans are telling Moore to drop out of the race if the allegations are true.

This tells me McConnell et al. really don’t want Moore in the Senate. If they supported him, they’d be blustering about liberal media slandering this upstanding virtuous Christian man blah blah blah.

At this point the Alabama ballot cannot be changed, but Moore could still withdraw or be disqualified by his state party. The guy Moore defeated for the nomination, Luther Strange, could run as a write-in candidate.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have adopted a unique strategy for helping Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent. Well, not so unique for the Democrats.

With less than a month until Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate, political experts say national Democrats are deploying a unique strategy to support their nominee, Doug Jones: They are staying away.

“I don’t have a sense at all that the DNC (Democratic National Committee) is anywhere in this state,” said Derryn Moten, chairman of the Department of History and Political Science at Alabama State University. “They don’t want to damage or do anything that might damage Jones’ chance to win that Senate seat,” he said. The party “doesn’t want to do anything that would be an albatross around Jones’ neck.”

That’s so … lame.

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What’s Up With the Time Warner, AT&T Thing?

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Trump Maladministration

AT&T has been planning to buy Time Warner for a while. The telecommunications giant would then also own CNN, HBO, Warner Brothers, and a bunch of other stuff with lots of content. One can see the potential.

The Justice Department appears to be trying to block the sale. There probably are good reasons to be leery of this much money and assets all glomming together into one global powerhouse. But there’s a strong appearance that the only reason Trump’s Justice Department is stepping in is that Trump wants to punish CNN.

There are all kinds of conflicting reports out today saying that either the Justice Department has made the sale of CNN a condition of the deal, or that AT&T offered to sell CNN, then said it wouldn’t. Whatever it is, the sticking point seems to be centered on CNN.

Reuters:

Reports that the Justice Department is pushing for significant asset sales and conflicting reports of its discussions with AT&T cast new doubt on the deal on Wednesday. Shares of Time Warner closed down 6.5 percent at $88.50.

The dispute is the latest twist in a deal which took on broader political significance immediately after its inception in October 2016. U.S. President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of CNN, attacked the deal on the campaign trail last year, vowing that as president his Justice Department would block it. He has not commented on the transaction since taking office in January. …

… The discussion of a potential sale of CNN has politicized the situation. Trump has repeatedly tangled with CNN, calling the network’s coverage “fake news.”

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Wednesday he opposed the mega-merger but was also worried about political implications of any divestiture of CNN.

“I am deeply concerned with the notion that the Justice Department may be pressuring the companies to consider spinning off CNN’s parent company Turner Broadcasting as a path forward toward approval of the acquisition, given the president’s repeated public complaints about CNN’s coverage of him,” Franken said. “Any indication that this administration is using its power to weaken media organizations it doesn’t like would be a profoundly disturbing development.”

What makes this all especially suspicious is that Trump’s guy to head the antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, said in an interview last year that the AT&T/Time Warner sale did not constitute an antitrust problem.  But now, he has changed his mind. One suspects Trump is behind this.

And then there’s this:

AT&T also said it would invest an additional $1 billion in the United States next year if Trump signed into law the provisions in the current House of Representatives tax bill.

“By immediately lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, this bill will stimulate investment, job creation and economic growth in the United States,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chief executive.

The lot of them can drop off the planet, IMO.

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Trump Gets Long Overdue Kick in the Butt

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elections

I would have preferred the Great Orange Mass of Wasted Protoplasm would have gotten his butt kicked a year ago, but I’ll take yesterday as a consolation prize.

Some cheering stories from Tuesday’s elections, in no particular order:

In New Jersey, Ravinder Bhalla was elected Hoboken’s first Sikh mayor. He won Tuesday night’s election just days after being targeted by flyers labeling him a terrorist.

Also in New Jersey, Democrat Ashley Bennet defeated Republican John Carman  for the Atlantic County freeholder seat. Bennet decided to challenge Carman after Carman posted a meme mocking the Women’s March.

Carman posted a meme on the day of the Women’s March that featured a woman in a kitchen and the message, “Will the women’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?”

“Just asking?” he wrote alongside the meme.

I don’t know enough about Phil Murphy to know what kind of governor he will be, but his lopsided victory against NJ Secretary of State Kim Guadagno was an obvious repudiation of Chris Christie.

In Montana, Wilmot Collins was elected first black mayor of Helena. Collins arrived in Helena 23 years ago as a refugee from Liberia. He was part of a progressive ticket that swept city commission races.

My goodness, Virginia, you had quite a night. The single sweetest story of the evening was Danica Roem’s victory over incumbent Robert Marshall for a seat in Virginia’s statehouse. Marshall had introduced a “bathroom bill” in Virginia and called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Roem is transgender.

“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” a jubilant Roem said Tuesday night as her margin of victory became clear. “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”

Marshall, 73, who refused to debate Roem and referred to her with male pronouns, declined an interview request but posted a concession message on Facebook.

Also sweet — Democrat Lee Carter, a Marine veteran from Manassas who openly ran as a socialist, beat Delegate Jackson Miller, a Republican incumbent who serves as  Virginia House Majority Whip.

Democrat Lee Carter, a red-haired, 30-year-old Marine veteran from Manassas, won a remarkable nine-point victory to oust Delegate Jackson Miller, a deep-pocketed Republican incumbent who serves as House Majority Whip. Carter ran openly as a socialist—he and his supporters croonedthe union anthem “Solidarity Forever” after their victory—and he won with almost no institutional support from the state Democratic Party. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Patrick Wilson reported last month that party leaders “abandoned” Carter after he declined to report campaign metrics like the number of doors he’d knocked and the amount of money he’d raised. Carter told Wilson he “ceased reporting to the House caucus after multiple information security lapses in which confidential information that we reported to the House caucus was leaked outside of the party infrastructure.” But he also said the party leaders “wanted a bit more editorial control over my messaging than I was comfortable with.” Wilson wrote that “Democratic Party leaders were not eager to discuss Carter, preferring to promote other candidates.” In fact, Wilson called Carter “the kind of rogue candidate that gives an apparatus like the Democratic Party of Virginia a fit.”

Another winner in Virginia was Kathy Tran, a former Vietnamese refugee, who became the first Asian-American woman to join Virginia’s House of Delegates

Democrats swept statewide races in Virginia — governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general — and so far have picked up 14 seats in the state legislature. Depending on some recounts, it is possible they could take over the majority.

The only state to not fall into line was Utah, which voted to replace Jason Chaffetz with another Republican. Well, Utah is Utah.

This should fire up Dems and, I hope, inspire them to pour every resource they’ve got into Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones is running against Grand Inquisitor Roy Moore for U.S. Senate in a December 12 special election.

Update:

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Why Is Wilbur Ross Still Secretary of Commerce?

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Trump Maladministration

Seriously, there’s a new story out at Forbes that makes Ross out to be just plain creepy. He was presumed to be a billionaire, part of the aura of success that made people assume he knew something about business. But it turns out he wasn’t; he’s been lying for years about how much money he  has. His “success story” is pretty much a sham. Yes he has a lot of money, but he’s no billionaire, as he has long claimed.

And of course, it was discovered a couple of days ago that his actual business interests connect him to Vladi­mir Putin’s son-in-law, which seems a tad suspicious.

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Back to the Old Mental Illness Dodge

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Trump Maladministration

Here is the “mental health and mass shooting” archive of Mahablog posts, starting with the most recent:

Evolutionary Psychology and Extreme Gun Ownership (October 7, 2017)

Labeling Stephen Paddock (October 3, 2017)

Are Guns Nuts Too Mentally Ill to Own Guns? (June 22, 2016)

The Fantasies of Terrorism (June 17, 2016)

On Crime, Crazy and Culture (December 24, 2014)

Impulse and Ideology (June 16, 2014)

Thoughts on the Mass Shooting du Jour (June 9, 2014)

The Heart of Darkness (Ma7 27, 2014)

Under the Crazy Rug (May 25, 2014)

Hitler and the Gun Nuts (January 12, 2013)

Guns as Sacred Objects (January 10, 2013)

Call Us All Crazy (December 24, 2012)

Defenses: Insanity (January 24, 2011)

Culture and Conditioning (January 11, 2011)

There may be some older ones, but I think that’s enough. They all kind of make the same argument, which is:

Most of the time, mass shooters don’t have a definable “mental illness.” They do tend to have a similar complex of common personality and behavioral characteristics, however. They tend to be hotheads. They tend to be impulsive. Often they are socially awkward in some way; women may call them “creepy.” They don’t tend to have successful relationships, in other words, although sometimes they are married. Very often they have histories of domestic violence and animal abuse. They probably hoard several firearms and have for a while.

Guys like this are as common as toast. What they don’t have is any kind of brain or medically defined psychiatric disorder that accounts for their decisions to kill people. They are not psychotic; they are not hearing voices in their heads or imagining that the nice people in the church are really space invaders.

And there is no way for the psychiatrists to know whether this or that creepy hotheaded asshole is the one who might be a mass shooter, or not.  Further, there is no medical treatment for being a creepy hotheaded asshole.

So, labeling mass shooters as “mentally ill” does absolutely nothing to help us address the problem. It’s no different from calling them “bad” or “evil.” It’s a meaningless label that gives us no usable information.

The problem (especially argued in the most recent posts) is that this is more of a social or cultural pathology than an individual one. There is something in our culture (plus the availability of firearms) that is causing this. One of those elements is our romanticization of firearms, I’m sure (see especially “Guns as Sacred Objects“). Somehow the acts of firing bullets into flesh is the “point”; mass killing by other means, such as by arson or bombs, is much less common among our creepy hotheaded assholes, which suggests those other means don’t have the same emotional appeal.

I’m also more and more convinced that the same complex of personality and behavioral traits that caused Devin Patrick Kelley to open fire in a church pushes young men elsewhere to join ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The difference between a “terrorist” and “some white guy shooting people for no good reason” is pretty damn blurry, and possibly meaningless, also. Well, except to some people.


 

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Trump in Asia; or, the Idiot Abroad

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Trump Maladministration

Slate:

President Donald Trump is apparently disappointed that Japan failed to shoot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country earlier this year, according to diplomatic sources that talked to the Kyodo news agency. Trump reportedly questioned the country’s decision during conversations with Southeast Asian leaders over the past few months. The president was particularly confused about the lack of action because Japan is a “country of samurai warriors,” according to the report.

North Korea launched ballistic missiles over Japan in August and September. But Japan’s miliary quickly concluded the missiles were not a direct threat to the country and did not interrupt their path before they crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Commentators on Twitter were flabbergasted by the remarks, surprised at how the U.S. president seemingly did not understand how shooting down the North Korea missiles could have been seen as an act of war that would have needlessly escalated the conflict.

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Face It: The DNC Was Financially Dependent on the Clinton Campaign, Beginning in 2015

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Trump Maladministration

After a few hours of hmming and hawing and shuffling of feet, the DNC’s Tony Perez came out with the story that of course the DNC had a joint fundraising agreement with Clinton, but Brazile was confusing the pre-nomination agreement from September 2015 with the post-nomination agreement in 2016. So there’s nothing to see here; move along.

This would seem to be a legitimate argument, since joint fundraising agreements that give the nominee considerable control over the DNC have been common for a long time. For nominees. Not candidates before the nomination is settled.

Late yesterday NPR.org came out with a story that there was an additional agreement Perez hadn’t mentioned.

In a letter to DNC members, Chairman Tom Perez noted that the party reached joint fundraising agreements with both Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The joint fundraising agreements were the same for each campaign except for the treasurer, and our understanding was that the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a [joint fundraising agreement] and work with the DNC to coordinate on how those funds were used to best prepare for the general election.”

That may be true — but two Democratic officials tell NPR that Brazile and Perez are referring to two different things. In addition to that joint fundraising agreement the DNC reached with both campaigns, the party and the Clinton campaign struck that separate memorandum of understanding giving the campaign staffing and policy oversight.

That document was signed on Aug. 26, 2015 — before, among other things, Vice President Joe Biden ruled out a run for president.

The DNC has not denied this characterization or timeline.

But for now, let’s put aside questions of who signed what, and when. There is one big, fat, irrefutable fact that Clinton supporters refuse to face but cannot deny, which is this:

The joint fundraising agreement entered into by the Clinton campaign, the DNC and 33 states in 2015 made the DNC financially dependent on the Clinton campaign. And this provided a powerful incentive for the DNC to be sure that Clinton won the nomination and continued her campaign to the general election. If Sanders had won, the money spigot would have been turned off.

As has now been thoroughly reported, the DNC was broke in 2015. It was also broke in 2014 and 2013. This was not Clinton’s fault; news stories have blamed President Obama and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But however it happened, it was broke. And the only solution to the DNC’s money problems that presented itself was the Hillary Victory Fund. So, even though the various agreements released so far have suggested that the DNC pledged to remain impartial during the primaries, they obviously were hugely motivated to not be so impartial.

Now, the next comment is bound to be, but Sanders could have raised money for the DNC and the states, too!  But he really couldn’t, and now I will explain why.

Here’s now the Clinton setup worked: The Hillary Victory Fund was a joint fundraising agreement set up with the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic parties of 33 states.  It was not exactly a PAC, but something like a PAC. Individual donors could give up to $356,100 per year, and since this was set up in 2015 some gave this maximum for two years, for a total of $712,200. Of course, a lot of donations were smaller.

The fund was controlled by a committee jointly staffed by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Its treasurer was Clinton’s chief operating officer. However, there were legal restrictions on what the committee did with the money; election finance rules don’t allow campaigns to accept that much money and use it any way it wants. Kenneth Vogel and Isaac Arnsdorf reported for Politico in May 2016:

The venture, the Hillary Victory Fund, is a so-called joint fundraising committee comprised of Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 32 state party committees. The setup allows Clinton to solicit checks of $350,000 or more from her super-rich supporters at extravagant fundraisers including a dinner at George Clooney’s house and a concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring Katy Perry and Elton John.

The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88 percent) was quickly transferred to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO’s analysis of the FEC records found.

By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton’s campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton’s campaign if and when she becomes the party’s nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone toward expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton’s campaign, including $2.8 million for “salary and overhead” and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads and that has helped Clinton build a network of small donors who will be critical in a general election expected to cost each side well in excess of $1 billion.

Per reporting by Politico, the HVF committee was depositing big checks from fundraisers into state Democratic Party bank accounts, but then taking the money out again, usually the same day. This appears to have been a way to legally “launder” the money so that Clinton could take the equivalent of an individual contribution — $2700 for the primaries, and another $2700 for the general, off the top. Then the money was passed on to the DNC. which was entitled to $33,400 per donation, and eventually, for the general election, remaining monies were released to states. And this is completely legal, by the way.

But here’s the catch, as far as Sanders is concerned. Campaign finance reform was one of his signature issues, and he was working hard to accept only individual contributions. As a primary candidate, he was accepting only $2700 per person per donation. And no more. (When FEC records showed some of his donors had exceeded this amount, he was obliged to give the extra money back.)

So how was Sanders supposed to compete with Clinton without betraying his own principles? He couldn’t. Those of you saying that it was just Sanders’s personal choice to not raise money for down-ticket candidates can kiss my ass.

Politico reported in May, 2016:

The arrangement has sparked concerns among campaign finance watchdogs and allies of Clinton’s Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. They see it as a circumvention of campaign contribution limits by a national party apparatus intent on doing whatever it takes to help Clinton defeat Sanders during the party’s primary, and then win the White House.

But it is perhaps more notable that the arrangement has prompted concerns among some participating state party officials and their allies. They grumble privately that Clinton is merely using them to subsidize her own operation, while her allies overstate her support for their parties and knock Sanders for not doing enough to help the party.

 At that point, the article says, states were only allowed to keep about 1 percent of the funds being raised. Again, more would be kicked in for the general elections; see Open Secrets for what I assume are the final totals. But Clinton herself benefited from the HVF more than any of the states, so it wasn’t exactly an exercise in selfless altruism.
Further — and this is a significant point — there is no question that a significant amount of the money that went to the DNC during the primaries was being spent on behalf of the Clinton campaign, to the detriment of the Sanders campaign. Remember, even after the money allegedly had been passed on to the DNC, Clinton’s own chief operating officer was heading the committee controlling it.

Ad soliciting donations for the HIllary Victory Fund.

The financial disclosure reports on file with the Federal Election Commission indicate that the joint committee invested millions in low-dollar, online fundraising and advertising that solely benefits the Clinton campaign. The Sanders campaign “is particularly concerned that these extremely large-dollar individual contributions have been used by the Hillary Victory Fund to pay for more than $7.8 million in direct mail efforts and over $8.6 million in online advertising” according to the letter to the DNC. Both outlays benefit the Clinton presidential campaign “by generating low-dollar contributions that flow only to HFA [Hillary for America] rather than to the DNC or any of the participating state party committees.”

The questionable outlays “have grown to staggering magnitudes” and “can no longer be ignored,” Deutsch added.

The expenditures on advertising and fundraising are at best “an impermissible in-kind contribution from the DNC and the participating state party committees” to Clinton’s presidential campaign, the letter said. “At worst, using funds received from large-dollar donors who have already contributed the $2,700 maximum to HFA [Hillary for America] may represent an excessive contribution to HFA from these individuals.”

In addition, the joint committee has paid the Clinton campaign committee $2.6 million ostensibly to “reimburse” the Clinton presidential campaign staff for time spent running the joint committee. The unusual arrangement, Deutsch said, “raises equally serious concerns that joint committee funds, which are meant to be allocated proportionally among the participating committees, are being used to impermissibly subsidize HFA through an over-reimbursement for campaign staffers and resources.”

“While the use of joint fundraising agreements has existed for some time — it is unprecedented for the DNC to allow a joint committee to be exploited to the benefit of one candidate in the midst of a contested nominating contest,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager.

To read the letter, click here.

These issues were never properly addressed. Basically, the Democratic Party and mainstream media, including “liberal” media, told the Sanders campaign to shut up.

Today, Clinton sycophants are merrily telling themselves that Donna Brazile’s claims have all been “debunked,” allowing them to continue to stroll merrily along with their heads up their asses. Even if they are dimly aware that the HVF wasn’t being entirely fair, that’s okay, because Sanders wasn’t a real Democrat.

However, Martin O’Malley was a real Democrat, and when he complained about the debate schedule being rigged to help Clinton, he was ignored. And what about all the other Democrats who might have tried for the nomination, but were discouraged, because Clinton had the money brokers tied up by early in 2015?

As I have written elsewhere, I don’t want this issue to turn into further debates over whether Sanders was cheated out of the nomination. Sanders might have come up short anyway. I just want the DNC to come clean about what actually happened last year. It needs to acknowledge that the joint fundraising agreement amounted to Clinton’s buying the DNC. It depended on her campaign for operating money, which gave the DNC a powerful incentive to be sure she won the nomination. I think that is beyond dispute. It’s vitally important for the DNC to come clean about this, and for something like this to not happen again.

 

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The Republican Tax Bill: Screw You

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Trump Maladministration

So, no surprise, the Republican tax bill rolled out yesterday would benefit the wealthy, hurt the middle class and poor, and increase the deficit. What else is new?

The New York Times has a list of deductions that would be eliminated by the tax bill. These include out-of-pocket medical expenses (a biggie for me, as I am old and poor) or losses like your house burning down. Seriously. On the other hand, embryos would be eligible for tax-advantaged 529 college savings plans.

Some business organizations are already coming out against the bill because of the loss of deductions. The National Federation of Independent Business complained that the bill favors big business and leaves out small businesses. The National Association of Home Builders is up in arms because it puts limits on deductions of mortgage payments.

And then there’s this, in which Stephen Curry is called out in the bill because Trump is feuding with him.

The bill is a nasty piece of work, and the vote on it is going to be close. As with the health care bills, if Senate Democrats hang together there’s a chance it will fail to pass. However, that may be a bigger “if” than with health care.

 

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The Hillary Victory Fund: Vindication

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Trump Maladministration

Or, how Donna Brazile (of all people) threw Hillary Clinton under the bus …

Remember all those blog posts I wrote about the Hillary Victory Fund last year? And how it amounted to Hillary Clinton’s buying the DNC? I genuinely felt like a voice howling in the wilderness, as hardly anyone else but a Politico reporter and Matt Taibbi connected the same dots I was connecting.

Well, folks, Donna Brazile of all people has written a book that spills the beans and throws Hillary and her Victory Fund under the bus, to mix clichés. There’s an excerpt at Politico that corroborates all the stuff I wrote about the Hillary Victory Fund last year and how it amounted to Hillary Clinton buying the DNC, and the nomination. Please read the whole thing.

Update: See also Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair.

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